I've been away on holiday in China for the past two weeks which has given me some time to reflect on LEJOG and the charity fundraising efforts. A couple of things have rattled away in my mind as we sauntered through pagodas and mused our way through menus that meant very little in English, but most of all was the fact that I hadn't introduced you properly to one of the people whose memory spurs me on in the ride and to raise money for charity, Lisa Smith.
Lisa suffered from Cystic Fibrosis ("CF") and if you've not heard of CF before, it's a particularly nasty genetic condition. One in 25 of us carry the gene and if two carriers have a child, there is a good chance their baby will inherit the CF condition; approximately one in 2,500 people end up with CF. If you suffer from CF, your body secretes a sticky mucus, coating your lungs, intestines, pancreas and other organs besides, the sticky mucus clogs up the body and makes it more susceptible to disease and whilst treatments have improved, there is currently no cure and it tragically cuts short lives, half of people affected may make their 40th birthday, but not without spending a lot of time in hospital.
Now at this point, I'll hand over to Carla who was keen to write about Lisa (having known her long before I did), here's Carla's blog:
If you knew Lisa in any capacity, you were truly one of the 'lucky ones'! To me, Lisa was an inspiring friend who loved food, friends and sharing good times. She lived a full and happy life thanks to her family and husband who have an equally inspiring strength of character that I admire. She achieved wonderful things, not least to mention a first class honours in her degree.
Lisa passed away in 2013 after fighting like no other against CF (Cystic Fibrosis). Lisa was phenomenal throughout and the world is a worse place without her kind heart and inspirational strength. She was loved and loved others more than words can express.
Mike and Lisa had a particular interest that was very similar and that was food! Every time Mike and I dined with Lisa and Craig, Mike would comment on how Lisa enjoys good food like him and wished I'd eat more steak, chocolate brownies etc that Lisa would enjoy. In later months when Lisa was in Southampton General for extended periods of time Mike and I would cook Lisa's favourite lasagne, with garlic bread, wrap it all in foil and quickly drive on over to the hospital to enjoy dinner altogether. We would all have a chuckle as I would offer salad and Lisa would literally give me a look of death and then smile as if to say, don't contaminate my dinner please!
When I first met Lisa we were at college together. Lisa and I studied Geography A-Level and whilst we would sit together, Lisa always listened more intently and I would be preoccupied with entertaining the class! It was always worth it as Lisa had the most infectious laugh that filled the room and a chuckle that made my messing around worthwhile.
The first time I had any understanding of the illness that Lisa lived with every day was when she told me she wouldn't be in college the following week as she was off to hospital for her course of antibiotics. Lisa wasn't cagey, but gave little information and left me feeling that I shouldn't ask too many questions. My only instruction was that if I wanted to visit her that week was to bring her some of the rice crispy cake from the college canteen that she was so fond of! Of course I obliged, spent a few hours with Lisa that week and after we went back to normal.
Several years passed before I had any real understanding of CF and how ill it could potentially make Lisa in years to come. Looking back on this now, I wish I had read more and understood CF in greater detail, but I always felt that CF did not define Lisa. It was something that she managed well and therefore kept private so that her life remained full and full. She never moaned, she never grumbled, she kept it away from everyday life as much as she possibly could.
Lisa never drank alcohol when we partied in our late teens and early twenties. Instead she would always offer to be the dedicated driver and I have lost count of the number of times she enjoyed a great night out with us. Lisa would always be happy to drive in exchange for a 'cheese toastie' on the return home at the end of the night! Normally my drop off was first and so I have to thank my parents for the number of cheese toasties that were consumed over the years as they were for everyone and I think this was Lisa's favourite part of the night as we would all chatter and reflect on the events. Of course Lisa's was always the most accurate account of what actually happened!
I don't want to dwell on the last year of Lisa's life. They were hard and those closest to her, particularly Lisa's husband, parents and sister amazed Mike and I with their unwavering strength and love. Even throughout that, Lisa faced up to CF with incredible bravery, she didn’t show any fear, never uttered an ill word, despite a long wait for a lung transplant and long spells in hospital.
If through Mike's bike ride the profile of CF can be raised and further research can move towards a cure, or even improvements then every minute of Mike's challenge and preparation will have been worthwhile. Lisa would think we're bonkers, but she would laugh when we told her and to hear that laugh again would just be amazing.
Please show your support no matter how big or small. Every penny supports people like Lisa. We are all eternally grateful of how well Lisa was looked after and hope that our fundraising efforts enable others to receive the same.
So please dig deep and donate now.